Anybody out there got a credit card?

June 02, 1997

Anybody out there got a credit card?

(Silly question).

Anybody out there up to limit?

I am.

Anybody out there been a day late making a payment?

I have. It is something I will regret for the rest of my natural life, and I will never be able to forget it, because every month for the remainder of that natural life I will receive a reminder of my transgression.

It will be in the form of a bill.

But let me start at the beginning. I had my credit card almost up to limit but was still $15 under limit when my payment arrived at the bank's offices a day late.


What a difference a day makes.

The next bill had a late fee tacked on. It was tacked on to my balance, which put me $5 over limit, on an account with a 24.99 percent interest rate. Because I was overlimit, I was assessed an overlimit fee.

(I find it mind-boggling to think that without making a purchase you can go overlimit on a previously underlimit account. Mind-boggling, but true.)

I looked at the bill. I looked at the bill. I looked at the bill.

(Sometimes things are just so depressing all you can do is look at them, because you are too paralyzed by apathy and/or fear to act).

The bill showed that I had managed to accumulate $96 worth of finance charges, whatever they are. I was assessed the $20 late fee and was fined $20 for being overlimit. I was then told that in order to stay in the bank's good graces I had to make a minimum payment more than twice my normal monthly minimum.

(I thought it was awfully kind of them to thank me for my one-day-late payment).

I realize that a moment ago I used the word "fined" to describe the overlimit fee. The banks will not like that. They will say I am paying for my transgressions, as well I should, since it is an honor to be issued a credit card and since I knew the terms when I got it. They will say I am not being punished for being bad, despite the fact that I violated the terms of my agreement with the bank, and was being charged $20 for doing it.

I would respond by saying that I am no longer sure what the terms are, since they keep changing. The bank keeps tacking on fees, and raising percentage rates. Other than that, I guess maybe the bank has a point. Maybe I'm just trying to "project" my guilt. (That's therapy talk.)

I was complaining to a friend about all this. She was not sympathetic. In fact, she said that I did such a bad thing when I made that late payment that God will see to it that I pay for my sin until the Second Coming. And rightly so.

Putting the issue of guilt aside, I have come to the conclusion that my bill will never get smaller, regardless of how much money I pay on it. I'm 50 now. I estimate that it will take me at least 20 years just to pay off the interest. I figure that leaves me precious little time to work on the principal.

Even if I pay the minimum monthly bill as requested, it will not cover the monthly finance charges, which are approaching the cost of a small garden tractor.

If I pay the minimum, as requested, I will still be overlimit and on my next statement another overlimit fee will appear. Even if I manage to live a millennium I will still be paying on my credit card.

I will never in my lifetime pay off the $3,500 bill, even if I never use my credit card again. I will have paid the bank $50,000, but will still be overlimit.

My bill will grow and grow until it swallows me and all my heirs - until there's nothing left for anybody. Nobody will want to be in my will, because of the daunting thought of being saddled with my credit card debts.

I now understand why people hide money under their mattresses. There's no fee for bedding down your bucks. There's no such thing as going overlimit.

And you can even buy things with it - interest free.

Column by Terry Talbert

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